A new machine learning model can detect hidden Aboriginal rock art. 

Researchers have developed a way to detect the presence of rock art in remote, hard-to-reach areas in Australia’s rugged landscapes using machine learning (ML).

Experts have used hundreds of images of rock art found within Kakadu National Park to train a machine learning model to detect whether painted rock art is present within the image.

The model achieved an 89 per cent success rate.

“Some of these sites are not easily accessible, so alleviating some of the time, effort and expense to mount some explorative missions is of huge value to this type of archaeological research in some of the most remote areas of Australia,” says Dr Andrea Jalandoni, a digital archaeologist from Griffith University.

“Once our ML model picks up whether an area photographed potentially contains previously undiscovered rock art, scientists can then go in and ground-truth the site to verify if there is rock art present and report on it further.”

In areas where numerous rock art sites exist, much of the rock art is unidentified and therefore remains unrecorded and unresearched.

Automating the many processes in rock art research could greatly facilitate rock art research in many ways, such as through Object Recognition and Detection, Motif Extraction, Object Reconstruction, Image Knowledge Graphs and Representations, the research team says.

Dr Jalandoni said with the efficacy of the ML model used in this study, the method could be used to train models that were specific to the rock art found in different regions around the world.

She said the findings could also be useful in the development of an app that tourists could use to upload images of potentially undiscovered rock art examples for further analysis.

“If you are a tourist in an area that could potentially have rock art within it and you're taking pictures, one of the future goals is for us to develop an app where you can add your image to the collection to see if it’s been documented or if it could be undiscovered rock art that needs to be examined,” Dr Jalandoni said.

“So it would allow citizen scientists on the ground to take part in important archaeological research.”

Academics worked closely with the traditional elders of Kakadu National Park on the study.

More details are accessible here.